The Mark Taper Forum's latest P.L.A.Y. (Performing for Los Angeles Youth) production, touring Southland public venues and schools, turns out to work quite nicely as a complement to the clown hit "Fool Moon," finishing its run Sunday at the Doolittle Theatre.
"Harold's Big Feat," a short comedy created and performed by Wolfe Bowart and directed by Peter C. Brosius, is billed as "a day in the life of an Everyman clown." Bowart, a professional actor with a trim athletic build, gives a skillful comic performance that starts giggles sputtering as soon as he walks on stage in red nose and nightshirt.
Bowart plays a music-loving clown named Harold, combining slapstick and other nonsense with facile timing and just a hint of European-flavored pathos. But he can't understand how to play the clarinet, no matter how loudly young audience members shout advice; his violin snaps, and his accordion rips. Surely he'll be able to get the hang of his new piano?
Not without a struggle. This is no ordinary piano.
The big brown upright (designed by Martin Zboril, who also did the cartoony set), has eyebrows, arms, toothy keys and a mind of its own. The mad interplay between clown and piano builds to a comic crescendo until Harold is swallowed by the musical monster, then returns a changed man, in top hat and tails, with a newfound talent.
Bowart's sojourn inside the piano, represented by shadow puppetry, slows the pace a bit, and the piano manipulation was somewhat clumsy at a recent performance at the Los Angeles Public Central Library's Mark Taper Auditorium. But the show triumphs thanks to Bowart's cleverness, timing and confident interaction with the audience, punctuated by talented composer Michael Silversher's whimsical sound design.
Victoria Petrovich did Bowart's clown costumes, and Michael Gilliam provided the mood lighting.
\o7 * "Harold's Big Feat," Natural History Museum, Exposition Drive, Saturday at 2 p.m. and April 2 at 1 p.m., $5-$7\f7 . \o7 (213) 972-7392. Also at Angelica Lutheran Church, 1345 S. Burlington, Los Angeles, on April 9 at 3 and 5 p.m., free\f7 .\o7 (213) 382-6378. Running time: one hour. \f7